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The Mists of Avalon (Mists of Avalon 1) by…

The Mists of Avalon (Mists of Avalon 1) (original 1982; edition 2008)

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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11,455204235 (4.11)1 / 525
Danielle.Montgomery's review
This book was a bit weird for me. I know the general legend of Arthur and I know that it doesn't end well. So going into a book, knowing that the ending isn't happily ever after made the book hard to read. I would read 20-30 pages (then I'd be busy at work again), and I'd set it down. And every time I picked it up, I would be slightly reluctant to start reading again because, again, I know the ending. But every time I start reading it, I get completely immersed in the story to a point where I wouldn't want to put it down. The book was a big tug-o-war for me but I can truly say that this book is one of a kind.

Bradley shows such REAL feelings in her characters. You find greed, lust, ambition, love...This truly is such a well rounded story that I think it would appeal to any type of reader. Bradley creates a beautiful layout of the land and of Avalon, so much so that you can see it in your mind and believe that you are there.

This was definitely a story of EPIC proportions. I hope they make an epic movie out of this like Lord of the Rings ;) ( )
  Danielle.Montgomery | Apr 19, 2012 |
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I may give up on this. I like the beginning, to a point. I did not love it, but it was OK. I enjoyed the thought of the Arthur legends from a new perspective. The beginning had a lot of female empowerment and strong positive depictions of old pagan beliefs. I did like the portrayal of females under the pagan system over the christian system, but really enjoy depictions of the old pagan religions. Halfway through the second part, I hate it. It has become more about religion than anything. I fucking hate Guinevere and wish nothing but the worst on this incarnation of that character. The ignorant hate of everyone around her is what the ENTIRE second part is about. I am sick of it. The story seems to be going nowhere and it is becoming a chore to get through. At first it made me irritated with Christianity (not being a Christian, it really wasn't that tough) but then I just started to get annoyed with the author who was clearly pushing an agenda. If in the next chapter she doesn't calm down a bit, it am giving up. ( )
  sffstorm | Jun 9, 2014 |
Truly a masterpiece. Though it took me a few weeks to get through, I truly felt the characters were real, and their struggles touched me deeply. I disliked Gwenhywfar's piousness, yet, at the same time, I could not truly hate her, nor any of the other characters because they were not just characters, but actual humans with their own problems.

It was written so beautifully, with such detail and care to weaving continuity throughout the piece. I highly recommend this book to any and all Camelot fans, because, despite its length, it was a true masterpiece.

I spent the last fifty pages sobbing, touched by how all the characters had sought one thing their entire lives only to discover they had wasted their entire lives. Nothing they planned came to fruition, and their pride had led, ultimately, to their downfall. Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar had each other, but they were not what they wanted, Morgaine never truly restored Avalon, Arthur never had his true love or his heir, and all came to naught. ( )
  liveshipvivacia | Apr 26, 2014 |
Truly a masterpiece. Though it took me a few weeks to get through, I truly felt the characters were real, and their struggles touched me deeply. I disliked Gwenhywfar's piousness, yet, at the same time, I could not truly hate her, nor any of the other characters because they were not just characters, but actual humans with their own problems.

It was written so beautifully, with such detail and care to weaving continuity throughout the piece. I highly recommend this book to any and all Camelot fans, because, despite its length, it was a true masterpiece.

I spent the last fifty pages sobbing, touched by how all the characters had sought one thing their entire lives only to discover they had wasted their entire lives. Nothing they planned came to fruition, and their pride had led, ultimately, to their downfall. Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar had each other, but they were not what they wanted, Morgaine never truly restored Avalon, Arthur never had his true love or his heir, and all came to naught. ( )
  liveshipvivacia | Apr 26, 2014 |
The Mists of Avalon, as you’ve likely guessed, is a retake on the King Arthur legends, but what makes it different is that it’s written from the women’s perspectives (Morgaine, Guinevere, etc.). The first one was written by Marion Zimmer Bradley in 1983 and this was the first time this feminist technique was used in fantasy literature and it was very successful (I learned that when I took a Modern Scholar course in fantasy literature).

The Mists of Avalon is beautifully written, but slow-paced, and I often wished the story would move faster. Since the women characters are the focus, there’s not much action (except traveling). The chicks themselves aren't fighting a lot of Saxons. Also, there’s a major emphasis on the dissolution of the pagan religi... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/the-mists-of-avalon/ ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
When I first read this book I really liked it. The Camelot legend has always fascinated me and this version, with its focus on Viviane, Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar, appealed to me. Now, after having been captured by the BBC series Merlin - which is brilliant! - I read The Mists of Avalon again. What a bitter disappointment. It didn't live up to my previous high rating at all. Long, repetitive, boring, pretentious, totally lacking in humour... What was still interesting was the conflict with the Christians but the insistence that all the gods and goddesses really are one God after all was just so ho hum. Gwenhyfar was unbearable, Arthur a wimp, Merlin a goody two shoes. Only Morgaine was of some interest but, oh how it dragged out. Now I just want to watch the BBC series again to get back into the enthrallment of Merlin, Morgana, Arthur and Gwen. If you haven't seen the series, see it! If you haven't read the book, don't bother. ( )
  rubyjand | Apr 4, 2014 |
The tale of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, told from the point of view of the Women of Avalon: Morgause, Morgaine, Elaine and Viviane. ( )
  harrietbrown | Mar 22, 2014 |
This was on my summer reading list for my freshman year of high school. I remember that I felt like it was my first exposure to King Arthur. I also thought it was a little racy for freshmen, but maybe I was naive! ( )
  scote23 | Dec 26, 2013 |
Another book I just could not finish....maybe there was too much romance for me? ( )
  Becky221 | Nov 4, 2013 |
A book that retells the Arthurian legends in a way never seen before. Dramatic figures are brought to life by the skilled penmanship of Marion Zimmer Bradley. Truly a great tale.
  Anika_Birgitte | Oct 19, 2013 |
I stopped reading this three hundred pages in. I decided that I have too few years left of my life to spend any part of them on the remaining two thirds of this book. I found the pacing glacial, the characters uninvolving and the writing style bland. ( )
  dazzyj | Oct 9, 2013 |
First off, I did enjoy reading The Mists of Avalon immensely. However, there were some issues that could not allow me to give this fantasy novel above three stars.

Let's begin with a few aspects of the story that I really enjoyed.

1) The plot of TMOA is fantastic. The idea of taking the well known Authorian legend and telling the story from the women's perspective is brilliant.Bradley did a fantastic job of describing the people of Avalon and Camelot in new and interesting ways.

2) Morgaine is a wonderful heroine. She is very human while also embodying the goddess. She makes plenty of mistakes throughout the novel but you can't help but love her and become invested in her well being. Additionally, the "Morgaine speaks" portions of the novel are by far the best prose Bradley writes. They are beautifully done.

However, there are some things that I didn't enjoy about TMOA.

1) Bradley needed a better editor. This over 800 page book is just way to long! It starts off so strong and sort of loses its way halfway through the novel and struggles to gain momentum toward the end of the story.

2) The reason why the story couldn't gain momentum is because Bradley is very one-sided in her beliefs and decides to beat her readers over the head with them. The novel very much focuses on the premise that Christians are bad and the pagans are good. There is just no middle ground with this topic. When I started reading TMOA I LOVED reading about the priestesses in Avalon, the druid rituals and beliefs, and their religious and political pull throughout Britain. It is very fascinating! But by the middle of the book the religious aspect of the book becomes boring and annoying. I cannot tell you how many times the same conversation takes place between characters arguing about Christianity vs. Paganism. Trust me. We got it about half way through the novel. Additionally, there is not a single Christian character with any redeeming qualities. All of the priests are described as stupid and close-minded.

3) Most people that love this book hail it as an epic feminist story. However, in some ways I disagree with that. Most of the female characters mope and moan over unrequited love throughout the entire novel! Gwenhwyfar is a very one-sided character and there is nothing redeeming about her.I understand that the author is trying to show the differences between Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar which ultimately shows the differences between Christians and Pagans. However, the author making Gwenhwyfar the scapegoat only implies the same old story of a woman being the downfall leading the world to chaos.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a character driven epic fantasy.

( )
1 vote megmo07 | Sep 27, 2013 |
Read this for a bookclub pick. I almost skipped the month because I've never been one for Arthurian tales, the similarity of the names irritates me. Glad I decided to give it a try however. Although it was slow-going at first, once I got a few chapters in it really captured my attention. Lots of complexity and theology to think about. Gwenhyfar drove me up the wall with her hypocrisy, but aside from that I enjoyed the book very much. ( )
  pixiestyx77 | Sep 22, 2013 |
Maravilloso. Es la leyenda Artúrica contada con los personajes femeninos como protagonistas.
Marion Zimmer Bradley da una explicación alternativa (y muy bien realizada) de la ya conocida historia del Rey Arturo, presentando, entre otras, a Morgan Le Fay no como a una bruja despiadada sino como a una mujer fuerte y poderosa a la que no se supo comprender correctamente. ( )
  outlanders22 | Sep 21, 2013 |
Well, I didn't realize going into this book that it would be such a feminist retelling of the tales. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- I was just unprepared for 800 pages of not-so-subliminal goddess-worship messages. By the end, it felt a bit preachy, and somewhat overwhelmed the actual plot and characters, but I suppose that's what sets it apart from the slew of other Arthurian adaptations.

The story dragged a bit for the first 100 pages (which feels more like prologue, telling what happened to instigate Arthur's birth), and then it dragged a bit for the last 100 pages as well (which felt a bit like epilogue, as the main plot's conclusion was pretty much determined), but considering that still leaves 600 pages of interesting story, I'm sticking to my 4/5 star rating.

What I liked most about the book was Bradley's characterizations of all the characters (the women in particular, but the men as well). Each character's core values and rationalizations were evident and consistent, from Igraine to Gwenhwyfar to Nimue, and Arthur to Kevin. Each of the players is distinct and memorable, and even their betrayals of one another are understandable and sympathetic from each point of view.

So, altogether: A good story told well. ( )
  NeitherNora | Sep 7, 2013 |
Guinevere: Denounce all paganism and witchcraft, or we’ll never have a son.
Arthur: But honey, I am king over ALL of Britain, both Christian and believers in the Goddess.
Lancelot: I know this is wrong, but I can’t help myself!
Morgaine: You have betrayed Avalon! Give that sword back, right now.
Merlin: But all gods are truly one and the same.
Morgause: Gods are stupid. There’s only physical love.
Accolon: You are not only my lover, you are my priestess.
Raven: -
Mordred: Yes, “uncle”.
Uriens: Morgiane, a footrub would be lovely.

Repeat five hundred times.

Add the tiniest table spoon of graaling, dragon hunting and general questing. Add a fistful of good characterization. Add a wagonload of swoony passion. Add a rather neat sense of things fading away that leaves a lingering taste. Then add three hundred pages just for the heck of it. ( )
15 vote GingerbreadMan | Aug 29, 2013 |
Things I liked about this book: strong female characters (at least among the priestesses) with complex relationships. Magical pseudo-fairy realm, plus real fairy realm. Learning the major players in Arthurian legend, which I have not studied.

Things I did not like: Gwenhwyfar, who is (by this account) a simple-minded tedious person. Repeated dialogue to the effect of, "all Gods are one so why can't we get along." "But you're a sinner!" Honestly, not an interesting nor fair fight (especially by the tenth or so go-round), and we all know who won. ( )
  tulikangaroo | Aug 25, 2013 |
I read "The Mists of Avalon" about 10 years ago, sometime during my freshman or sophomore year in high school. I really didn't know very much about the whole Arthurian legend, but I was interested in Paganism at the time, so I decided to give it a try. Even after all this time, I'm still impressed by this book. However, I wasn't about to reread it in order to write this review, because, if I remember right, it took me a couple months to finish it, seeing as how it's nearly 900 pages. But I'll try to recap as best as I can, starting with a phrase that pretty much sums up a major theme in "Mists": Behind every great man stands a great woman. Or, in this case, about four great women, all of whom are relatives of King Arthur's in some way: Morgan (his half-sister & lover), Viviane (his aunt), Igraine (his mother), and Guinevere (his wife). Yet the story is primarily shown through the eyes of Morgan and Guinevere, two complete opposites of each other--Morgan being the yin (dark Pagan energy), while Guinevere is the yang (light Christian energy). Out of the two, Morgan was definitely my favorite; Guinevere was just utterly annoying. Separately, these two try to sway the power and balance in Avalon via King Arthur. If you're familiar with Arthurian myth, then I don't have to explain further; but if not, it couldn't hurt you to pick up a copy--that is, unless you drop this 2-pound epic on your toes. ;)

Almost 20 years after it was published, "The Mists of Avalon" was made into a movie in 2001, starring some of my favorite actresses (Anjelica Huston being one of them). I haven't seen it yet, but from what I've heard, I haven't missed much. Still, I'd recommend it if you enjoyed the book (Hint: read the book first). I'd also recommend the other two Avalon books by Bradley: "Lady of Avalon" and "The Forest House." You don't have to be an Arthurian/fantasy buff to enjoy this book, but you do need a great deal of patience to finish it. ( )
  saraslibrary | Jul 23, 2013 |
Not being a huge fan of the Arthurian mythology, I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. I was actually ready to give it 5 stars after the first 3/4 -- it's well-written, complex and compelling. I had a hard time putting it down for the first 700 pages or so, but I found Book Four kind of disjointed and disappointing. ( )
  wirehead | Jul 9, 2013 |
A few very beautiful and moving moments tucked away in an 800-plus-page morass of inconsistent characterization, tiresome speechifying, and sloppy writing. I really wanted to like this, too. For well-crafted Arthurian characters who are believable and sympathetic even in their nastiest political maneuverings and divided loyalties, read Parke Godwin's Firelord. ( )
1 vote tinabythelake | Jun 22, 2013 |
Our lives are made up of stories which are neither wholly nonfiction nor completely fiction. Things happen to us, sure, but our telling of them becomes a narrative. No person alive has ever related something that happened to them or that they experienced without omitting certain things and embellishing others. But here’s the thing about narratives: we, the audience and/or reader, have a tendency to accept them at face value. I think that it is a subconscious instinct to believe what we hear. It’s easy and comfortable to think that what someone is telling you is the truth (whatever that is). This is a bad instinct. Every so often we learn that what we had blindly accepted as truth is anything but that, but still more frequently we go through life with the simple assumption that things we have been taught, such as the Arthurian legends, are true. Not true in the sense that these events all actually happened necessarily, but rather in the sense that we do not question the perspective from which the story is related, and almost never consider that there may be another side to it.

It’s like how you felt as a high school student, learning in a passive, osmosis-like way about such grand sounding things as manifest destiny, conquistadors, and imperialism. When we are teenagers, we often accept as true what we are told by teachers and parents, figures that we have been taught to regard as the final word, the guiding light of “what really happened”. Conscious critical thinking is something you may or may not have developed as you matured. I remember taking my first American Indian studies course in college and later a class on American Involvement in Central American Issues and sitting in my seat, stunned and horrified. We did WHAT?! I felt ashamed by what my country had done (is doing), ashamed of the color of my skin, the complicity of my ancestors, knowing or otherwise, in the injustices and genocides (a term NEVER applied to the U.S. in high school history) that happened on their watch. As uncomfortable an experience as those classes were for me, I learned something invaluable: never take narratives at face value. You have to make a conscious decision to keep in mind that there is always at least one other side to the story. There is always a different perspective from which to view the action.

The same is true for fiction as it is for History. In the novel I just finished, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, which just so happens to be my first deviation from The List, perspective is everything. It is a story most of us know by heart. The legend of King Arthur is one of the most famous tales in the English language, but it’s usually told from an outsider’s perspective; not an ambivalent one, but one who focuses on the doings of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and on Merlin. Never have we heard the story from the perspective of the many important women in the story, like Arthur’s mother Igraine or his famous sister Morgan le Fay. Most of us never even realized that we were lacking this perspective. This is exactly what Bradley gives us in The Mists of Avalon: the side of the story we never knew we needed.

This is how deeply our subconscious tendency to believe what we’re told runs: never once, in all the times that I’ve read or watched some version of this story, whether it’s that one made-for-tv Merlin with Sam Neill or Bulfinch’s Mythologies or Camelot on Netflix instant watch, have I stopped and wondered, “I wonder how Morgan le Fay felt about having her brother’s baby” or “I bet Igraine wasn’t too happy when she realized that Uther had tricked her into sleeping with him by using magic to resemble her husband, the Duke of Cornwall (whom Uther had killed, though Igraine didn’t know that yet)”. Bradley answers all these questions, although usually not in the manner I was expecting. She imbues these characters with life, gives them their own motives and passions, fears and weaknesses, thereby fleshing them out in intriguing and believable ways. In Bradley’s version, these women are not the passive porcelain dolls flung about by the ambitions of men in the games of lust and power, but main characters in their own right. The lineage of the Lady of the Lake, which includes Igraine and her daughter, Morgan, are responsible for setting Arthur on the throne and later for casting him down when he betrays Avalon and the old ways for the Christian religion. Gwenhyfar (Bradley’s spelling) herself is the one who fights fiercely for the christianization of Britain. None of these women are helpless. In fact, they often appear to be stronger than the famous men of the story: Morgan holds enormous power over Arthur and many of the men in her life. Gwenhyfar, who appears strikingly weak at first, turns out to be much stronger than her lover, Lancelet. The mastery of Bradley’s telling is the dynamic nature of her female characters. The reader’s opinion when they first come to know Igraine, for example, will be worlds different from their opinion later on, and the same holds true for most of the women in the story.

The long and the short of it is that I found myself deeply surprised by the fact that I had never considered this story from the perspective of the women. I learned all about reading through different critical lenses in college, the feminist viewpoint being one of the ones I focused on most. What surprised me wasn’t that Bradley was able to take these minor characters and transform them into world-shaking valkyries, but rather that I had never even considered that possibility. To me, that is evidence of just how deep-seated is our inclination to believe, and not question, what we are told is just “the way the story goes”. That my conscious mind simply allowed what I had previously heard and read to be true without questioning what may have been omitted is a scary thing. If I open that can of worms, what other things does my consciousness accept without the slightest tremor of doubt?

For more book reviews (err... book musings?), visit my blog For Love and Allegory at http://www.forloveandallegory.wordpress.com/ ( )
1 vote stixnstones004 | Jun 21, 2013 |
I started reading this because it's a cornerstone of feminist fantasy/historical fiction. I love the time period, I'm fascinated with the historical aspects of Aurthurian legend, but... I couldn't finish it. I powered through until about halfway, when good old Gwen makes Arthur take the Christian standard into battle. Everyone was doomed, bringing on their own dooms, and I just couldn't stand it anymore. I want to finish it someday... just not right now. ( )
  Snukes | Jun 14, 2013 |
Morgaine (often called Morgan le Fay in other works), a priestess fighting to save her matriarchal Celtic culture from being overwhelmed by the upstart patriarchal Christianity, which threatens all she holds dear. The Arthurian legend is told from the female perspective, which significantly alters the characterization of each of the participants. ( )
  cfk | May 29, 2013 |
I read this forever ago, don't think I even finished it. It was just "girl power" gone horribly wrong. ( )
  stacey2112 | Apr 22, 2013 |
As a scholar, I find The Mists of Avalon very interesting. What it does with the story of Arthur is fascinating: Arthur's story is always used to the author's own ends, and Marion Zimmer Bradley is very conscious of that. Her emphasis on feminine power is well done -- I loved the opening part, with its insight into Igraine's thoughts and feelings, her fears, her hopes. This version of the story is driven largely by the women, and it isn't the vision of steel and lances and damsels in distress that the more traditional Arthurian court promotes.

I enjoyed what she did with the ideas of the Lady of the Lake and the Merlin: even in traditional stories, there are a lot of different aspects to them, and the idea of them as positions rather than single people works reasonably well. The whole story line with Kevin is interesting.


I didn't read this book in its entirety. I skipped and skimmed. I just couldn't settle down and enjoy it, because it felt like nothing happened, and that it was wholly invested in a kind of spirituality that doesn't say much to me (my religion doesn't have so much as a creed, let alone a set of rituals or any set scripture). It seems to take forever to get anywhere.

I am going to have to do more than skim it, eventually, if I want to write an essay on it, during my Master's degree. For now, feel free to take my review and rating with a pinch of salt.

(Initially, at least, rating it two stars, "it was okay". I enjoyed the ideas, the way she chose to spin the retelling, but not the execution. The ideas may bump it up a star or two if I do read it later.) ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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